When our last child left for college, sadness hit — until my husband and I realized that empty nesting can be pretty awesome.

I earned my master’s degree in education and started working as a school administrator. We took several exciting trips overseas, and I finally finished the book for young adults that I’ve been working on for years. All in all, life is pretty sweet!

We have two girls, and the youngest just graduated college, so we’re not only empty nesters, we’re now empty nesters with more money.

Of course, it wasn’t easy when they first left. We’ve always been really close. When there were really young, I stopped working for a bit and stayed at home with them. Our eldest daughter had severe dyslexia, and while she did okay in school, I knew she was smart enough to do better, so I home-schooled her and her sister for seven years. After that I returned to teaching, but I knew I didn’t want to just stay in the classroom for my entire career.

At home, I saw what was coming, and having put so much into family life for so many years, I was afraid of the transition.

 

At home, I saw what was coming, and having put so much into family life for so many years, I was afraid of the transition. I’ve seen so many other mothers lose themselves. Nobody prepares you — all of a sudden the kids are just gone. They get a driver’s license and you don’t see them as much, and the next thing you know, you’re dropping them off at college and driving away with your heart in your throat.

To prepare, I started thinking about what I wanted to do. I knew I needed to have something to keep me busy, so I applied for a principal fellows’ program through the state of North Carolina. They pay you to go to school for two years, and in the end, you agree to serve four years as a school administrator. I started that program during my oldest daughter’s senior year in high school and my youngest daughter’s junior year, and then I started working as a high school administrator.

I was putting in 80-to-90-hour weeks and figured out pretty quickly that I was trying to stay really busy so I didn’t have time to think about how much I was missing my daughters. I put myself completely into the job and loved it. I got to know so many kids who helped me find purpose again.

When my daughters left, I also rediscovered a passion that I’d long overlooked: Writing.

When my daughters left, I also rediscovered a passion that I’d long overlooked: Writing. I started a book 17 years ago and I’d only finished the first three chapters, but the characters I created kept talking to me. Over the years, I often wondered how they would turn out — they became like friends whom I wasn’t talking to anymore. So I dug up the uncompleted manuscript out of an old computer and started writing. I would come home from work and just write every night.

I finished the book, sent it to publishers and didn’t hear anything for almost a year. Then all of a sudden, I started hearing back and ultimately I got a book deal. I’ve written two books so far and I’m working on the third and fourth ones now. They all deal with different teenage experiences.

When my kids left, they taught me something about myself, about what I wanted to become. My advice? When the kids leave the nest, plan a trip, join a class and celebrate the adventure. You spend so many years taking care of others — now’s the time to just have fun! Also, don’t make the kids more important than your spouse, because your spouse is the one you’re going to spend the rest of your life with. I love my husband; he is absolutely my best friend. We plan on taking a big trip every two years; we’re embracing our go-go years.

It’s true. Once the kids leave, your home has a different kind of feel and peace to it, and it’s really pretty good. Sometimes my husband and I will look at each other and say, “Hey, we’re empty nesters!” and we’ll high-five.